Brevard pastor sails the Great Loop in trip of a lifetime


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At Titusville’s Kennedy Point Marina, Dennis Phillips is ready to begin his three-month journey around the Great Loop, a continuous waterway that allows boaters to explore the eastern United States.

SENIOR LIFE Courtesy of Brett Annand

In addition to being the pastor of First Baptist Church in Rockledge, Dennis Phillips is an official “Looper.” 

This means that the Titusville resident has completed a journey of the Great Loop, a collection of interconnecting waterways around the eastern United States. It can range from 5,000 to 7,500 miles depending on route variation.

Phillips’ interest in the Great Loop motivated him to take his first trip in 2007. His second voyage, taken recently, had a different motivation.

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about six months ago,” he said. “I wanted to take the trip again, while I was still able.”

He set out from Titusville’s Kennedy Point Marina on May 1. Alone in a 17-foot sport boat with a 150-horsepower inboard engine, he waved goodbye to family and friends.

Intracoastal waterways brought him north to Norfolk, Va. and to the Chesapeake Bay waterways in New Jersey, New York City and the Hudson River. Other points of interest included Troy, N.Y. and the Erie Canal. From there, he continued to Lake St. Claire north of Detroit, then Lake Huron and Lake Michigan to Chicago. Inland rivers, lakes and canals took him through the continental United States to Mobile, Ala. and eastward, back to Titusville.

Along the way, he visited communities and churches.

This epic journey was not without its challenges.

“The water was smooth when I began crossing the Neuse River in North Carolina, but then the wind shifted and 3- to 4-foot waves were crashing against the boat,” he said.

Phillips also battled through two-and-a-half hours of dense fog in Lake Michigan.

Otherwise, the beautiful scenery was worth it.

“Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River north of Detroit were absolutely gorgeous with crystal clear water and nice homes surrounded by evergreens along the water’s edge,” he said.

By late July, Phillips was nearing home. In August, family and friends gathered at Kennedy Point Park to welcome him.

He described his journey in a Facebook blog, In the Loop.

Phillips’ talents don’t stop with pastoring and boating. He also has penned several books.

Information about them can be found on his website: drpenterprise.com.